Riyadh to close eight Turkish schools, likely ruffle Ankara

Last month the education ministry said there were 26 Turkish schools in Saudi Arabia.
Thursday 29/04/2021
A combination of pictures of Saudi and Turkish flag. (AFP)
A combination of pictures of Saudi and Turkish flag. (AFP)

ISTANBUL--Saudi Arabia is set to close eight Turkish schools at the end of the current academic year, Turkey’s Anadolu state news agency reported Wednesday, a decision that could anger Ankara as it tries to improve ties with Riyadh.

Turkey’s education ministry has been informed by the Saudi authorities that the eight schools will have to close at the end of the current school year, according to Anadolu.

The eight establishments targeted have a total 2,256 pupils, it added.

Turkey’s foreign ministry offered no comment.

Last month the education ministry said there were 26 Turkish schools in Saudi Arabia.

The closure of eight of them risks hiking tensions between the two countries.

Relations between the two largely Muslim nations have plummeted in recent years, especially over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

Ankara used the case politically and diplomatically to pressure Saudi Arabia.

In recent months, however, Turkey has made efforts to mend its relations with regional rivals across the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt.

The Saudis and the Egyptians have been cautious about fully embracing the Turks, preferring to await tangible changes of policy that would go beyond declarations of intent.  A key issue remains Turkey’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and its ambitions in the region.

While Ankara still maintains a military base in Doha, Riyadh has in recent weeks established closer military cooperation with Turkey’s arch-enemy Greece to protect itself against missiles and drones from Yemen’s Houthis.